Office of Environmental Health and Safety

Office of Environmental Health and Safety

Hazardous Waste FAQ

Hazardous Waste FAQ

How is Hazardous Waste managed at Indiana University and how can I find out more about it?

Hazardous waste generated on campus is managed by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.  The guidelines to follow if you are generating waste are found in the Hazardous Waste Management Guide.  If you want a hardcopy version of this guide, contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at (219) 981-4230.

I have some waste and I've read the directions on the back of the Hazardous Chemical Waste Tag.  I have followed these directions and want you to pick up the what do I do?

Call the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at (219) 981-4230 and make arrangements for a pickup.

What is a Hazardous Chemical Waste Tag?

A Hazardous Chemical Waste Tag is used by all generators of hazardous waste to identify the contents of each individual container of waste.  Normally, every container needs its own tag, unless you have more than one container with exactly the same contents in the same quantity.  In this case, note on the tag how many such containers you have, and tape or box together the containers.

The tag must be filled out completely and physically attached to the container neck with a rubber band or piece of wire.  Be sure to read the directions on the back and completely fill out the front of each tag. If this is done, you should have no problems having your waste accepted by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

If you run out of tags, contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety and request a supply be sent to you via campus mail.

What if my waste is not hazardous, but I am unsure if it can go into the trash or down the drain?

There are many grades of waste.  The Hazardous Waste Management Guide provides guidance for deciding into which category your waste fits.  If in doubt after reading the guide, feel free to contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.  Most wastes are hazardous, or close enough to be declared hazardous.  The Hazardous Waste Management Guide does list chemicals that can be disposed of in the trash.  Most of these are non-toxic salts. Note that no liquids can go into a trash container no matter how non-toxic.

The Hazardous Waste Management Guide also lists guidelines for when you can sewer chemicals.  This is very infrequently done as our sewer guidelines are very restrictive.  We place this information here however as a matter of convenience, as you may have a sewerable chemical.  Once again, if in doubt, contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Lastly, we have a category called CCI's, or Chemically Contaminated Items.  These are non-hazardous solids (such as contaminated paper towels, glassware, plastic, etc.) that are too contaminated to go in the normal trash, but not contaminated enough to be considered hazardous waste.  Place these in a plastic bag (put sharps in a hard plastic container), label with a Hazardous Waste Chemical Tag and contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety for a pickup.

Why do we even need to fill out a waste tag?

The Hazardous Chemical Waste Tag serves many important functions in the proper disposal of chemicals.  The obvious function is identifying what exactly is in the container.  Often bottles are used for waste collection and the original label on the container does not accurately describe its contents.  When chemicals are labpacked (left in their containers and placed in a drum with filler material between them) the tag is pulled off and put into that drum's inventory envelope.  This serves two purposes, it allows us to comply with hazardous waste regulations and enables us to create a drum inventory sheet, i.e., a packing list for our waste company.  All tags need to be filled out completely for tracking our waste materials.

I am a busy researcher and don't have time to fill out tags.  Why can't the staff of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety do it?

We understand that at times, filling out waste tags may seem to be a time-consuming process.  However, you must keep in mind that the Office of Environmental Health and Safety is responsible for the ENTIRE Indiana University Northwest campus and processes hundreds of chemicals.  In addition, it is YOU, the researcher/generator, who has the most information on the type of waste that goes into a container.

What is wrong with using chemical formulas or abbreviations?

While chemical formulas and abbreviations can be a useful shorthand version for some tasks, we ask that you write out the full chemical name.  Not everyone uses the same abbreviations for the same chemicals.  In addition, we are not all chemists.  Our job entails knowing the hazards that the chemicals possess and the precautions that need to be taken, not deciphering chemical formulas.

Why do I need to figure out the percentages of chemical constituents?

When you are asked to write the percentages of the chemical constituents out, it is not necessary to break out the calculator.  A good estimate of the approximate percentage is sufficient.  This information makes it easier for us to determine what hazard category the chemical should be placed in.  This is also one of the reasons that we ask that you include the amount of water and/or solvents that are present.  The percentage of specific chemicals will determine how the waste will eventually be treated for disposal.  In the event that there is less than 1% of a chemical present, this can be written as "trace" in place of a percentage.  If the chemical is highly toxic, then list as a ppm amount (10,000 ppm = 1%).

When filling out the chemical composition, do you want the initial reactants or the final products?

If at all possible with mixed waste, the final products are desired.  Depending on the initial reactants, the final products may exhibit a different hazard and/or they may exhibit more than one hazard.  Both of these will have an effect on how we classify the chemical and how the chemical will ultimately be disposed of.

What does signing the certification mean?

It is required by LAW that generators of hazardous waste sign a certification stating that they are practicing waste minimization.  In addition, by signing the certification, you are assuming the responsibility that the waste generated is accurately described in the chemical composition section and that the waste was generated by a University-related activity.

What if I don't know what the waste is or how much of what is there?

While it is understood that unknowns may be found, the generation of unknowns may be prevented.  This is simply a matter of good housekeeping and labeling.  All bottles of chemicals or waste should be labeled in some manner, be it the original label, a waste tag, or some other way of identifying what is already in the container and what is added.  In the event you find an unknown, you should try to find out who last used the container or who generated the waste and what is in the container.  The cost of determining an unknown by our waste company is $50+ per container, and all effort should be given by the researcher/generator to determine what the waste is, before turning it over to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety for disposal.